By Marilyn Diggs
Here is part 2 of Marilyn’s article about the Pantanal and Bonito. To read part 1 click the relevant link at the end of the article.

Bonito offers adventure, nature and leisure
After a day of hiking, climbing to the top of the highest waterfall in the state (465 ft. or 156 m.) and a savory buffet lunch with typical hearty dishes, we pulled into Bonito, a city of 15,000 that receives tourists from all over the world. Happy with my choice of Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel, I relaxed in the sauna, jacuzzi and heated pool before relishing a mouth-watering dinner buffet with regional and international cuisine. The hotel’s open-air architecture gives a light, unobtrusive-to-nature presence. Dining is in glass-sided pavilions with a view of the immaculate grounds – home of toucans, Angolan chickens and other birds whose fancy plumage look like they are playing dress-up.

Ambiental Expedies, my touring agency, was efficient, informative and punctual. I was sure that my 3 days would be as well spent as in the Pantanal. The affirmation came with a feast for the eyes: a visit to the Blue Lake Grotto (pictured left, by Ricardo Rodrigues) whose interior is gothic cathedrals formed by stalagmites and stalactites that ends in an aqua blue pool. Later, I hiked around a 328ft/100m deep sinkhole, alive with its own emerald vegetation, where red and green Macaw parrots returning at day’s end, swoop and glide in the open abyss.

As for adventure, the rubber boat ride over waterfalls on the Mimosa River interrupts an otherwise peaceful cruise with roller-coaster excitement. I was glad to know that the enormous anaconda sunning itself in the overhead tree prefers smaller prey to tourists. My favorite outing was the snorkeling and flotation down the Prata River. Dressed in neoprene suits, the current takes the swimmer along its shallow trail of clear turquoise water with curious, shiny tropical fish. A small caiman that shared the lagoon ignored us completely; there was definitely enough fish for all. I was relieved he didn’t know I ate alligator steak for lunch.

I didn’t have the energy to enjoy the tennis court, beach volley courts, soccer field, bike lane, jogging lanes, ecological trails, sport fishing, horseback riding nor the quad biking at the Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel (pictured right, by Ricardo Rodrigues), during this stay. But then again, one has to save something for a return visit.

Bonito and the Pantanal make a perfect travel combination with their ecological tourism activities and exuberant local landscape. I left the state of Mato Grosso do Sul with a new appreciation for Brazil’s biodiversity and natural wealth. The scenery, sounds, smells, taste and emotions of the Pantanal and Bonito regions all come together in a not-soon-to-be-forgotten sensorial experience that is more than impressive; it is mind-boggling.

Tips for the Pantanal and Bonito

Basic Information
Ambiental Expedies: Information and reservations office: (11) 3819-4600; www.ambiental.tur.br and email: ambiental@ambiental.tur.br

Where to stay
Caiman Ecological Refuge (Refgio Ecológico Caiman): Information and reservations office: Rua Campos Bicudo 98, cj. 112, Itaim, São Paulo; (11) 3079-6622, fax (11) 3079-6037; www.caiman.com.br and caiman@caiman.com.br

Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel: Rodovia Bonito/ Trs Morros, Km. 0; Toll Free: 0800-99-4400, (67) 255-1280, fax (67) 255-1710; www.zagaia.com.br and reservas@zagaia.com.br

Where to eat
Churrascaria Pantanal: Rua Cel. Pilad Rebu 1808, Centro, Bonito; (67) 255-2763, (67) 9953-6373. Alligator steaks, regional fish, steak house, salad, garnishes and dessert buffets. An excellent option for lunch.

Churrascaria e Costelaria do Gacho Gastão: Rua 14 de Julho 775, Centro, Campo Grande; (67) 384-4326, fax (67) 382-2942. You have to fly into Campo Grande, so either on your way to or back home, stop at this steakhouse for their specialty, ribs. Picanha (rump roast) is also divine. Buffet of salads, garnishes and desserts. A favorite of tourists and locals, alike.

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International , a UNESCO publication. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1
Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

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